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Judge rejects Junos bid to have commission report quashed

LeYoni Junos

The Supreme Court has refused to hear a claim launched against the Commission of Inquiry into historic land losses on the basis that it was not submitted “promptly”.

LeYoni Junos told the Supreme Court that she was challenging the report of the Commission of Inquiry into Historical Land Losses as a public interest litigant, who was not personally harmed by the proceedings but was acting for the greater good.

The historical researcher, who was hired as an investigator for the commission, claimed that its 500-page report, made public in December, was “flawed and unreliable”.

However, Assistant Justice Hugh Southey said that the application had been delayed without good reason and that Ms Junos lacked standing to make some of the challenges she hoped to.

“It appears to me that many of her complaints relate to the treatment of individual cases, although it is said that those cases are said to be examples of a flawed approach,” Mr Justice Southey said.

“Those are cases where the individual who complained to the Commission of Inquiry has a more direct interest in the proceedings. It appears to me that they cannot be made into a systemic challenge by seeking to link a number of cases together.

“It appears to me that the nature of a challenge does not change by adding additional challenges. Ms Junos argued that those individuals could not bring an application but I have no evidence of that.”

Ms Junos, in her judicial review application to have the report quashed, said that there was a general failure by the commission to fulfil its statutory duties, as well as “misleading statements and untruths” in its report.

The plaintiff, in an affidavit, also raised a “concern of racial bias in the report when it comes to the types and period of historic expropriations of property that were inquired into by the commission”.

She said that the commission — established by David Burt in 2019 to look into historical losses of property and make recommendations on compensation and justice for any victims of wrongful action — chose to look at land grabs in Tucker’s Town and St David’s island, which represented “in the main, losses of land of persons of colour”.

However, Ms Junos said that the commission decided against inquiring into historic land losses in the mid-1800s via expropriation to the British War Department, which in the main were losses of land by white people.

Mr Justice Southey said that Ms Junos’s application was received on the last day of the six-month deadline. There was a requirement that applications be made promptly.

“The fact that the application was made within six months does not mean that it was prompt,” he wrote. “There is no evidence that explains why this application was lodged on the very last day of the six-month time limit.

“In oral argument, Ms Junos argued that it was practice in Bermuda that a claim merely needed to be lodged in six months and she was not aware of the requirement for promptness.

“She also argued that the report was long and it was published while Covid-19 was still a factor.”

The judge added that he had not received any evidence explaining the delay other than the comments made by Ms Junos and, in the circumstances, the application was made out of time.

Mr Justice Southey said that Ms Junos did have standing to raise several of her complaints — including those regarding comments made about herself and the status on the board of Wayne Perinchief, who served as both deputy chairman and acting chairman.

However, the judge said that there was nothing to suggest that Mr Perinchief’s status on the board was unlawful, or that the comments in the report about Ms Junos were unlawful.

He added: “I have no doubt that Ms Junos was of the opinion that the approach of the commission was flawed.

“However, that does not mean that she is entitled to bring a claim that is delayed and so contrary to the Supreme Court rules.”

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